Understanding Darren’s, the upscale and quality-obsessed California cuisine restaurant in downtown Manhattan Beach, requires more than a recitation of its awards. Those recognitions certainly have piled up: a top-25 restaurants in L.A. ranking from Zagat, commendation for its wine list from Wine Spectator and citations for its service, among others.
To understand Darren’s requires more than a familiarity with its menu. It’s true, of course, that chef/owner Darren Weiss’s training in some of Hawaii’s finest kitchens is in evidence in the lineup of offerings. Apparent on the menu, too, is Darren’s quality-centric sourcing of ingredients, including dry-aged USDA Prime beef, fish brought in daily and house-made sauces and spices. (Full Press Story)
Your votes have been counted and here are LA’s Top 50 best restaurants: an eclectic mix of old-school classics, trendy hot spots and stellar newcomers. The list includes the city’s best fine dining spots but also top-notch pizzerias and outstanding delis and sandwich shops.
Darren’s is very proud to have come in at #25 on the list! (Full Press Story)
Darren’s — born again after several months of remodeling and retooling — may be the most grown-up restaurant in downtown Manhattan Beach.
There’s a certain undeniable Neverland quality to the South Bay’s beach towns and their restaurants; this is a world where you can be young forever amid the energy, the mixology, the chow and the general wacky weirdness of the area’s hottest eateries.
But Darren’s doesn’t feel like the sort of restaurant where you show up wearing board shorts and flip-flops. I’m not suggesting tie-and-jacket — heck, there isn’t a restaurant in the South Bay where either a tie or a jacket is called for —but I figure a decent pair of khakis and maybe a nice Tommy Bahama shirt would do. A fair understanding of our cuisine circa 2014 wouldn’t hurt either. Socks are optional. But reservations are necessary.
Those of us who are fans of chef Darren Weiss remember him from his first local restaurant, the tiny Cafe Catalina in Redondo Beach. He’s a chef with an impressive history. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he cooked at David Paul’s Lahaina Grill, Mark Ellman’s Avalon and the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa on Maui; the man’s beachside roots are well documented. After that, he was at Rockenwagner in Santa Monica before going his own way with Cafe Catalina. He headed for Texas for a stint and then opened the current Darren’s in 2007, which he reopened a couple of months ago. (Full Press Story)
Whenever a place that I like closes for remodeling, I fear an outcome best expressed by the German word verschlimmbesserung. This magnificent pile of syllables means “an attempt to improve something that makes it worse,” and it makes clear that my concern is shared across the globe. The expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” expresses the same idea using only three more letters, but is less fun to say and also gets you fewer points in Scrabble.
This anxiety was why I observed the beginning of work at Darren’s with some trepidation. There were a few things that weren’t perfect, like the uncomfortable bench seating by the walls, and the place was looking a bit worn after eight years, but that didn’t seem to merit a complete overhaul. I was most concerned that they were removing the patio seating, since that was my favorite place to dine and people-watch on summer days.
The work was done quickly, and I have to admit that it was an improvement. The space was opened up to show off the beamed ceiling to create an ambiance not unlike a European farmhouse, an effect enhanced by the old tools displayed on the back wall. At first the new space had a problem with echoing sound, but some acoustic engineering has made it so that it’s one of the more sonically pleasant rooms in town. (Full Press Story)